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Red Wings overnight report: The race to Thanksgiving, Datsyukian hate and grooming Homer’s successor

As of 6 AM this morning [edit: make it 7:15 as this took an hour and change], I haven’t been able to find much information as to what transpired during Joey Kocur and the Red Wings Alumni Association’s charity softball game in Highland, MI, save a few pictures from the Wings’ Twitter account and an instant classic from Jamie Favreau, who posted a picture of Darren McCarty rocking a kilt which apparently included a Detroit Tigers logo...

But the Vernon Morning Star’s Lisa VanderVerde ensures that this Sunday is anything but “slow” in the news category by offering an interview with Wings GM Ken Holland from his off-season home in Vernon, BC. Holland recently held a charity event of his own in a charity golf tournament, but he wasn’t too busy to engage in a cursory discourse regarding Detroit’s lateral free agency moves and his belief that the Wings must get off to a strong start to ensure that they’re playoff-bound by American Thanksgiving:

“Middle of July until the end of August is slow in our industry. Most teams spend their money in the early few days of July, and if you don’t spend your money, then the players are picked over. We like our team. We added a couple of defencemen, we added a back-up goalie. I think a lot of our team is really coming into their prime. We’ve got an older component to our team, but that’s by design.”

Ty Conklin is the goalie Ken mentioned, while Ian White and Mike Commodore are the d-men Detroit signed.

Holland used to list four or five teams who had a serious chance at winning the Cup. In today’s game, he feels all 16 playoff teams have a shot.

“I’ve always said the playoffs really begin October the fourth because in order to win the Stanley Cup, you have to get into the playoffs. If you look at the races every year, it’s down to a few points. You need to get out of the gate. I always use U.S. Thanksgiving, in late November, when everybody has played 25 games (as a gauge). You can play pretty well and lose four in a row, it’s so fine. It’s a great league and it’s wide open. Eight first-round match-ups and four went to Game 7 and two went to overtime, and the two teams that went to the Stanley Cup finals, were in overtime in Round 1. They were one shot away from being eliminated. So it’s great for the fans.”

A numbers whiz and talent-hound, Holland has worked almost 30 years for the Wings, starting as a scout. He turns 56 in November and he’s not thinking early retirement.

“I became manager in ‘97 and I’ve been a manager for 14 years. Proud of things we’ve accomplished, but trying to figure out a way to win one more Cup and it’s hard to do. I work with great people, great owners and it’s a great city. It’s more challenging all the time, with the cap, and parity. It’s not only the cap; there’s no expansion teams. Eight years ago, teams were four or five years into their existence. Everybody’s an established franchise. Everybody has 27-year-old players that are in their prime so there’s no expansion teams.”


While I’m mentioning charitable events, a key figure in the Wings’ attempt to overcome Brian Rafalski’s retirement, Niklas Kronwall, will hold his annual charity hockey game to benefit his youth hockey team, Jarfalla HC, on August 12th, and Jarfalla Hockey’s website lists the following players as participants:

Niklas Kronwall Detroit Red Wings
Jacob Josefsson New Jersey Devils
Tom Wandell Dallas Stars
Gustav Nyqvist University of Maine, ny signad för Detroit Red Wings
Daniel Rudslätt AIK
Dick Tärnström AIK
Niklas Grossman Dallas Stars
Patrik Hörnqvist Nashville Predators
Jonathan Ericsson Detroit Red Wings
Marcus Krûger Chicago Black Hawks
Rikard Franzèn AIK
Johnny Oduya Winnipeg Jets
Andreas Engqvist Montreal Canadians
Mattias Norström Dallas Stars
Niklas Bergfors Nashville Predators
Christian Sandberg AIK

This event was brought to my attention by Marie Hallman, who briefly spoke to Kronwall about Friday’s charity game…

“There will be a good lineup this year, a young but very talented one,” says Niklas Kronwall. It should be a fun game, I think. And just so you know, it’s free admission. Just walk into and look, all for free.

Those who want autographs can get it at 17.00, the players warm up 17:50, start of the game 18:30.

[You can go to the] Järfälla ice rink and check out both current and emerging stars. And as I said, free admission

And Hallman notes that Kronwall, Ericsson and Henrik Zetterberg will take part in another charity hockey game on Thursday in Norrkoping, Sweden, when Peter Forsberg’s “Icebreakers” team will play against Jonathan Ericsson’s alma mater, Swedish third division team, Vita Hasten, and Hallman says the game will air on Swedish TV:

Speaking of friendly games involving NHL players the game between Vita Hasten and the Icebreakers on August 11 [will air on] TV10 and Viasat Hockey [in Sweden]. The Sedin brothers, [Henrik] Zetterberg, [Nicklas] Backstrom, Markus Naslund is included in Peter Forsberg’s team. Niklas Kronwall, Jonte and Jimmie Ericsson and Patrik Hörnqvist will play for Vita Hasten.


Sticking with international news for a moment, Tomas Tatar accurately predicted the winners of Slovakia’s player-voted “Zlaty Puk” (Golden Puck) awards. The Slovak news agency, SITA, reports that Zdeno Chara was named Slovakia’s best player for 2011, and Tatar’s friend, Tampa Bay Lightning prospect Richard Panik, was named the best player under 20 years of age—but Wings prospect Tomas Jurco finished second in the voting for said award.


And Pavel Datsyuk popped up in Puck Daddy‘s headlines again, but not because of Dmitry Chesnokov’s fantastic interview with Datsyuk, but instead, because Second City Hockey’s Sam Fels, one of the Blackhawks’ “blogosphere’s” most outspoken Wings-haters told Greg Wyshynski that the player he despises the most is Datsyuk.

I can’t deny the fact that, as a partisan Wings fan, I tend to call that team from Chicago the, “Thughawks” or “Chickenhawks,” but I have to admit that as much as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp torment the Wings, when they’re not playing Detroit I do respect the way they play.


Regarding one of the players Datsyuk mentioned in his interview, I really do believe that Tomas Holmstrom will probably out-last Nicklas Lidstrom by sheer force of will, probably playing until his knees can no longer withstand constantly being hacked and whacked by opposing teams’ players, but in light of the Free Press’s Helene St. James’ suggestion that Danny Cleary may supplant Holmstrom in the Wings’ top six, Pro Hockey Talk’s Joe Yerdon made what I can only call a bold suggestion:

Lidstrom is in his 40s and going strong, but a guy like Tomas Holmstrom is 38 years-old and worse for the wear given the sort of offensive game he plays. Parking yourself in front of the opposing goalie and taking your lumps from defensemen and goalies alike takes a toll on your body and for Holmstrom, this upcoming season could be his last in the NHL.

Thankfully for the Wings, they’ve got a guy in Dan Cleary who had a breakout of sorts last year and could be poised to take over Holmstrom’s role this year.
...
If Cleary can pick up where he left off at last year when he scored 26 goals and added 20 assists for a career high 46 points, he’ll force the issue for coach Mike Babcock. Cleary was able to do some of the dirty work in front of the net while Holmstrom dealt with injury problems last season and did well on the power play with five goals on the man advantage last year.

That’s a far cry from what Holmstrom did scoring 10 of his 18 goals on the power play, but if Cleary is going to be the guy to take his spot there he’ll have to improve his numbers. With Cleary being six years younger and a less abused than Holmstrom, he’s an ideal candidate to fill those very large shoes in front of the net. What Cleary did last year with his ability at even strength has shown he’s capable of being a top six forward with the Wings, it just remains to be seen if it’s his time to take that job and make it his own from here on out.

Politely speaking, um…No way in hell. Holmstrom’s a specialist who spends an incredible amount of time honing his craft as a net-front shot-tipper and rebound-retriever, and he not only practices tipping shots with Lidstrom for 10-20 minutes after every practice, but he also studies tape of opposing goaltenders and has essentially learned to mimic goaltenders’ positioning to the point that I’d argue he’s a better goaltender, fundamentally speaking, than half of the league’s starters.

Cleary, Johan Franzen and Todd Bertuzzi can certainly go to the front of the net a little more regularly, but Cleary’s role as a forechecking forward who grinds the puck out down low and along the side boards, and when you add in his ability to snipe passes into the net via one-timers, those skills are far too valuable to sacrifice for the sake of planting him in front of the crease.

Moreover, if Holmstrom’s job was so easy to master, his scores of imitators wouldn’t come and go with spinning Rolodex’s regularity, and I don’t like tossing this word around, but Cleary’s both too multi-dimensional in his abilities and too, erm…old…to truly learn to succeed Holmstrom like a youngster might be able to do.

If anything, I’m very surprised that the Wings haven’t taken one of their prospects aside, suggested that they invest in some knee braces and then go about shadowing Holmstrom like the silhouette of his hockey pants torments opposing teams’ goaltenders, soaking up all Holmstrom knows about the art and science of tipping pucks by essentially playing as a second but very ineffective goaltender, while withstanding abuse from opposing teams’ defensemen without more than hints of retribution, because Holmstrom replaced Dino Ciccarelli in said role and the Wings will face a gaping hole in their roster if they don’t find someone to fill Holmstrom’s very dedicated spot in front of the net, especially on the power play, and to fill his hockey pants, if you will.


And finally, via RedWingsFeed, DetroitRedWings.com editor Bill Roose announced that he’s going to swap out his role as the website’s editor for that of a “beat writer.” It sounds like the Wings’ website’s going to attempt to churn out feature stories on a more regular basis, and with Rick Bouwness’s addition to the PR staff and what I’m sure are a few new interns in tow, I’m guessing that the editing role will be reassigned within the organization. So congrats to Roose, and keep an eye on the Wings’ website as the prospect tournament and main training camp approach (we’re only a month out!).

 

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Comments

Sunday's avatar

Personally I think Homer will be a lot harder to replace than Rafalski, Lidstrom or anyone else.  Kids grow up wanting to be the next Lidstrom, or Yzerman, or Zetterberg, and it takes no convincing for a prospect to want to learn to play like Lidstrom, Yzerman or Zetterberg.  How does a coach talk a player into *wanting* to wear extra padding, get pounded on constantly, and to need ice baths and industrial-strength jars of Motrin?

Posted by Sunday from somewhere else on 08/07/11 at 10:24 AM ET

MsRedWinger's avatar

George and Sunday, as a huge Homer fan I appreciate the things you both said.  Homer is what he is because Scotty Bowman told him to go to the front of the net and he did.  But he did more.  He made a point of getting really, really good at blocking goalies and tipping shots (especially Lidstrom’s) and even the Red Wings haters out there tip their hats to his skills.  He has taken an incredible amount of physical punishment without complaining and rarely losing his cool.  He’s a very, very special and valuable player on our team.  It amuses me to see players on other teams “go to the front of the net” - as if that’s all it takes - and be completely ineffective.

I do wish a couple of the younger guys would decide to follow in his footsteps and learn from him (or maybe Babcock should suggest it) while he’s still around.  I agree with Pav that Homer and Nick will probably retire after this season.  A good reason to really, really want a Stanley Cup this year.

As for the Blackhawks, I do have a certain amount of respect for Toews and Sharp, but not for most of their other players or for the organization in general.  When they welcomed Dan Carcillo as they did - with Stan Bowman’s obvious delight - well, we all know what that means.  Can’t stand ‘em.

Posted by MsRedWinger from Flori-duh on 08/07/11 at 03:50 PM ET

creasemonkey's avatar

For a prospect to shadow Homer and learn much, the Wings would also need to provide a Homer-to-English translator.

Posted by creasemonkey from sweet home san diego on 08/07/11 at 04:35 PM ET

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Punk rock sensibilities? Yikes… Punk is doing what you want to do, not hating popular consensus.

What do you guys think of possibly going after Hornqvist? I’m sure it probably won’t happen, but he’s a good in front guy, and he could gain a lot of skill and knowledge under Holmstroms wing… Plus they could communicate in Swedish, so no language barrier.

Posted by LGRWeh from Motor City Area on 08/07/11 at 06:53 PM ET

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Thanks George for the love.  It was quite entertaining and I couldn’t stop taking pics because it was so funny to see.  But if he didn’t want pictures taken he wouldn’t have worn the kilt.

As far as Homer goes.  He is quite a few years younger than Lidstrom but they are good friends but I don’t think that will decide when he retires.  Who knows really though but Homer.

Posted by Jamie Favreau from Detroit, MI on 08/07/11 at 07:18 PM ET

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And Pavel Datsyuk popped up in Puck Daddy‘s headlines again, but not because of Dmitry Chesnokov’s fantastic interview with Datsyuk, but instead, because Second City Hockey’s Sam Fels, one of the Blackhawks’ “blogosphere’s” most outspoken Wings-haters told Greg Wyshynski that the player he despises the most is Datsyuk.

A. “Scoreboard” to the whiny bandwagon beeotches in Chicago.
B. Does anyone read or care about Puck Daddy and their myopic biased stable of turd burglers anymore?
C. Pavel Datsyuk is a God.

Posted by Juice from LA on 08/07/11 at 07:43 PM ET

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They don’t replace Homer, they just change the way they play the game—new ideas are needed to pull it off though.  What they don’t need to continue doing is traveling down the painfully beaten and predictable path that has obviously run its course.

Posted by gt500x from Detroit on 08/07/11 at 09:38 PM ET

George Malik's avatar

For a prospect to shadow Homer and learn much, the Wings would also need to provide a Homer-to-English translator.

Well, you know, it’s not that hard, yoost get used to what he has to say for sure, and, ah…It’s yoost not a freakshow or something, it can be done for sure!

I really believe that the Wings need to take somebody with some grit aside—whether that’s Tatar, Callahan, maybe even Nestrasil or even Emmerton, and agree that the prospect will not only watch Holmstrom in person during training camp and the exhibition season, but will also speak to Holmstrom and watch video of what Homer does while working with the Griffins’ coaching staff during the AHL season to work very hard at honing a Holmstrom-like set of skills.

I think that the Wings had hoped that, to some extent, Tomas Kopecky might be willing to play a Holmstrom-like role, at least on the power play, and I know that the Wings have very specifically held onto certain prospects who never quite made the cut (like Zack Torquato) because they’d hoped that the player would be amenable to taking on a Holmstrom-like role, but the team’s at least looking in that direction and that much is encouraging.

Losing Homer without even attempting to groom a successor seems foolhardy at best at this point.

Posted by George Malik from South Lyon, MI on 08/07/11 at 09:39 PM ET

RWBill's avatar

They will have to change the way they play I think, and it won’t be easy.  Much of what success the power play had was with Holmstrom out there, often combined with Lidstrom.

There is no person or combination that can step right into that role.  The PP will have to change as it will not be able to rely on that combination.  At least that’s some point in the future, this year they’re both still there.

Cleary?  No, he needs his wheels to be at 100% to play his game.  He can’t risk bruised chins/knees/lower back/ankles.  To be effective he needs all of his skates.

Posted by RWBill from cruising Brush Street with creepy Rob Lowe. on 08/07/11 at 10:11 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The fact that other teams are copying the Red Wings’ measure of success (see Chara in front of the net on power players) makes it seem unlikely that the Wings will want to make a change to their game plan.  SOMEBODY is going to have to take on the Homer role.

Cleary had half as many goals go through his screening ass as Homer did this last season (12 to 6).  Those are goals where the guy didn’t actually touch the puck, but his being in front of the goaltender was an important part of why it got through into the net.  After that, Bertuzzi had 3 and nobody else had more than 1 (a number shared by both Abdelkader and Datsyuk).

I think Cleary is the closest to being able to step into that role full-time, but I’d like to see them grooming the next one young, like those above me have said.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/07/11 at 11:57 PM ET

42jeff's avatar

I’m sorry…I keep chuckling when I think of Homer trying to give instruction.  With his student constantly shaking his head and asking “Wait…what was that”?

Posted by 42jeff from The greater Howard City, MI metroplex on 08/08/11 at 10:48 AM ET

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Play to the strengths of the players you have not to those you no longer have. If there is someone on the team after Homer leaves who has similar skills then great. If not make the changes needed to focus on who you have.

Other teams manage to have great power PPs without Homer on their team. I am sure the wings can coem up with something that works al well.

As Wings fans we sometimes get caught up in wanting to find the replacements of these players who have spent so much time with this team. Finding the next Draper or Lindston or Holmstrom seems like the way to go for us. But I don’t think you do that. No two players will ever be similar enough to make us happy.  You can never just fill holes with something exactly the same.

Helm is not the next Draper. Helm is Helm. Let him do what he does what and not live in anyone elses shadow.

The same with defensmen. Forget about finding the next Rafalski or Lindstom. Lets find the “first” Smith or Almquist.  And hope they can be special in their own way.

Posted by JP on 08/08/11 at 10:50 AM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Lidstrom.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 08/08/11 at 10:53 AM ET

Rdwings28's avatar

Hey youngsters, want a job?? Permanent position available, will train.

Posted by Rdwings28 on 08/08/11 at 11:12 AM ET

CaptainDennisPolonich's avatar

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qI7pK4HnVok&feature=related

An impromptu speech that Homer gave at the Plymouth Ice Sculpture Spectacular (PISS for short). After his knees give out, Home has a long career ahead of him as a stand up comic.

Posted by CaptainDennisPolonich from The Land of Fake Boobs and Real Nuts on 08/08/11 at 05:11 PM ET

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just read that chi-town article snip it on pavel funny as *#$%@& lol hey haters gonna hate but seriously hater stop hating….anyways on a totally unrelated note but not really (its 5am) saying what punk rock is or embodies is totally not punk rock (if that makes any sense at all i will stand amazed) paradoxes are defiantly punk rock?!?!?! get it…its a declarative word followed by a question mark following a paradoxical statement….yeah i just blew my own mind lol (again its 5am)

Posted by mike on 08/09/11 at 07:04 AM ET

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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.